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How to Tell if Your Child Is Gifted
According to Prufrock Press, a publisher of books for gifted children and their parents, the designation "gifted" or "gifted and talented" is bestowed upon young people who display a variety of characteristics, along with "high performance capability in an intellectual, creative or artistic area."
Note that they do not limit the "gifted" label to kids who are great at math (although a 5-year-old who does long division in her head is probably pretty darn smart). A child could be gifted in other areas, such as music or drawing. Perhaps she "incorporates large number of elements into artwork" or "sets high standards in the artistic area," gifted characteristics the Prufrock site identifies.
Carolyn Kottmeyer, founder of Hoagies' Gifted Education Page, says identifying a gifted child can be challenging.
"There are many lists of characteristics of gifted children, but not every gifted child displays every characteristic," she tells ParentDish. "The simplest description is that the gifted child learns faster and deeper than other children of the same age, and feels more acutely than his or her same-age peers. Some gifted children do puzzles years earlier than their peers, others read early, often by teaching themselves."
"Many, but not all, walk and talk and accomplish physical milestones early," she says, adding, "And some children are both gifted and learning disabled, exhibiting characteristics of both, a combination that makes their gifted identification and childhood learning much more challenging than either their gifted or average peers."
Of course, parents should be careful not to jump to conclusions -- Prufrock's website also includes traits such as "likes listening to music," which could describe any number of children. No one thing automatically makes a child "gifted."
But ParentDish's Advice Mama Susan Stiffelman goes a step further.
"All children are gifted," she says. Stiffelman cites the work of Harvard Professor Howard Gardner and his theory of multiple intelligences, telling us that "each child has at least one area of inherent talent that deserves attention and nourishment."
Kottmeyer disagrees. "Howard Gardner's theories say that all children have strengths, domains in which they are more able than in other areas," she says. "Gifted, by most definitions, refers to intellectual abilities in the top 2.5 percent. Saying all kids are gifted is like saying all kids are tall; it can't be true. Not all kids are in the top 2.5 percent of height. Not all kids are gifted."
Let's say, hypothetically, that your son or daughter began writing computer programs in first grade, or could play Mozart before learning to walk. What should a parent do?
"Parents serve their children by identifying their unique areas of giftedness and making sure that they have the chance to develop and express their gifts on a regular basis," Stiffelman says.
What action you take depends on the child's age, Kottmeyer says.
"For older gifted kids, in addition to unstructured nature time and social interaction with like-minded peers, it's important that gifted kids have the opportunity in the early years of school to learn how to learn, how and why to study, and to face the academic challenge that other kids naturally face in school," Kottmeyer says. "Allowing the gifted child to learn these things in school will likely require ability grouping, subject acceleration or full-grade acceleration. Coasting through school until middle or high school and learning these lessons years later is far more difficult for the child, and can contribute to an attitude of superiority in the child."
So, once you figure out what your child is good at, encourage him or her to stick with it. If your son shows a talent or love of music, try piano lessons. If numbers are your daughter's thing, download some math worksheets from sites like TLS Books or edhelper.com.
Related: School System Dropping 'Gifted' Label
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